A Federal High Court sitting in Ado Ekiti on Tuesday set aside an earlier order of a Federal High Court in Lagos empowering the EFCC to freeze two accounts of Governor Ayo Fayose in Zenith Bank.
The court ordered the EFCC to immediately lift the freeze order on the two accounts belonging to the governor, saying the anti-graft agency did not follow due process.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo gave the order while delivering his judgment which lasted more than two hours in a suit filed by the governor through his counsel, Mike Ozekhome.
The judge said the rights of the governor had been infringed upon, considering the circumstance of his office.
He declared that apart from the immunity which Fayose currently enjoys as a sitting governor under Section 308 of the constitution, it was wrong for EFCC to freeze his two accounts in apparent perpetuity without first investigating him or making him a party.
The judge averred that rather than the EFCC freezing the governor’s accounts directly through the third party who did not enjoy any mandate from him, the governor himself ought to have been first investigated.
He described Fayose as “a genuinely deprived person who rushed to the court to seek constitutional protection.”
The judge stated that it was also the duty of any presiding judge to protect the said constitution and its interpretations whenever the need arose.
“The plaintiff is entitled to be heard before his property or money can be seized; doing otherwise will amount to denying him fair hearing and constitutional rights,’’ he said.
The judge, however, refused to grant other reliefs sought by the governor, including a perpetual injunction restraining EFCC or its agents from further tampering with his property.
The judge also refused to grant another relief asking for payment of N5billion as exemplary damages.
“This court will not shield any person from due investigation. Since the police cannot be stopped from investigating a crime, same goes for the first respondent so as not to whittle down its functions,’’ the judge said
EFCC lead counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, was absent in court while Fayose’s counsel said the judgment would checkmate the agency against “ brazen arbitrariness and excesses.’’
The accounts of the governor were frozen on June 21 over suspicion that the money found in the two accounts was proceeds of crime while the suit challenging this was filed on June 26.